Tomato Basil Pecorino-Romano Pretzels
makes 24 (or 23) pretzels
1+1/2 c tomato sauce
1+1/2 packages yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
60 g finely grated pecorino romano* (about 2 cups)
1+1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp oregano
3 to 3+1/2 c flour
1 egg, beaten
* You can substitute parmesan if you’d like
Heat the tomato sauce to about 110 degrees (aka ‘warm’ in most recipes – I used a glass measuring cup in the microwave, and used 20 minute increments, stirred it, then put my thermometer in to check. You want to be sure to get it fairly close to 110 degrees, because too cold and the yeast won’t activate, and too hot and you will kill it). Once it’s at the right temperature, stir in the yeast, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s bubbly.
In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce/yeast mixture, tomato paste, pecorino romano, sugar, basil, and oregano. Once everything is well mixed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time. The amount to add will vary depending on your altitude and humidity. You will probably have to mix in the last 1/4 to 1/2 cup with your hands. Basically you want the dough to have a consistency that is smooth, but not sticky.
Form the dough into a ball shape, put in a lightly greased (or cooking sprayed) bowl, turn to coat, and then cover with a slightly damp towel (use warm water). Here is where I’m supposed to say ‘let rise until doubled in size’, but honestly – I haven’t seen ‘doubled in size’ in my bread dough for decades. Lets go with ‘let rise 40-60 minutes, until you can tell that it has increased in size quite a bit’ – but if you really get double the size, kudos to you!
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.
Punch the dough down to release the air, then divide the dough into 24 pieces. As you are shaping each piece, keep the others covered with the damp towel so they don’t dry out. For each piece, roll into a rope 12-14 inches long. Form into a pretzel shape:
Arrange the pretzels on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Brush each pretzel with egg. Now sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. Obviously since the pretzels are orange, you won’t be able to determine their doneness by a ‘golden brown color’. So you kind of just have to go by the outside texture.